Review: Under the Mask, Theatre Peckham

Playing at Theatre Peckham before a UK tour, Tamasha Theatre’s Under the Mask – written by a junior doctor – is a haunting revisit of the early days of the pandemic

“I’m telling you now I don’t feel safe”

Given that you can’t help but expect that there’s going to be a whole lotta COVID plays coming along soon, there’s a balancing act to be made about the approach to a global pandemic that is still very much a clear and present danger. Under the Mask takes the route of almost documentary realism as junior doctor and new writer Shaan Sahota very much writes what she knows.

A Tamasha and Oxford Playhouse co-production, opening its UK tour at Theatre Peckham, Under the Mask invites audiences to an audio experience, taking us back to the beginning of the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK. Viewed through the scarcely believing eyes of newly qualified doctor Jaskaran who is fast-tracked onto the Intensive Care Unit, it’s a haunting tale of lived experience. Continue reading “Review: Under the Mask, Theatre Peckham”

News: #HampsteadTheatreAtHome launches this week

The latest venue to announce the opening of their digital archive in order to satisfy our theatrical cravings is the Hampstead Theatre who, in partnership with The Guardian will re-release the live stream recordings of Mike Bartlett’s Wild, Beth Steel’s Wonderland and Howard Brenton’s Drawing the Line for free.

Available to watch on theguardian.com and hampsteadtheatre.com, the three productions will be made available, on demand, over three consecutive weeks as part of the theatre’s #HampsteadTheatreAtHome series and the first of these – Wild – is available now. And once you’ve watched it, take a look at the ways you can support the Hampstead Theatre here. Continue reading “News: #HampsteadTheatreAtHome launches this week”

TV Review: Humans Series 3

I can’t help but think Humans might have run its course as a uniquely intelligent and British sci-fi drama

“…the coming together of man and machine. You can change the course of history…”

I’ve enjoyed where Humans has taken us thus far, and the beginning of a third series seemed promising. But as I got to the end of this season and twist after twist pointed at where the story might well continue, it felt like I might have reached my expiration date with the show.

The human/synth baby that Mattie is carrying, Niska’s transformation into ur-Niska, V’s survival…it’s hard not to feel that any of these feel far less interesting than where Humans are trod thus far in its carefully balanced but uniquely British brand of sci-fi. Continue reading “TV Review: Humans Series 3”

Review: The Village, Theatre Royal Stratford East

A free adaptation of Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna by April de Angelis, Nadia Fall’s debut season as AD of Theatre Royal Stratford East starts off in fine style with The Village

“I’d rather spend my nights with a saag aloo”

A free adaptation of Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna by April de Angelis, Nadia Fall’s debut season as AD of Theatre Royal Stratford East starts off in fine style with The Village. Harking back to the past as Joan Littlewood directed it here in 1955, it also looks firmly to the future as a statement of intent about how things are going to be different out East.

The play has been resituated from Spain to northern India and set in the modern day. And in these Kavanaugh-plagued times, there’s something of a gut punch about the way how, even with fast-forwarding half a century, this kind of story can remain so horribly pertinent. What is does remind us though, is of the importance of resistance and the strength that can come from a community.  Continue reading “Review: The Village, Theatre Royal Stratford East”

Review: Coming Up, Watford Palace Theatre

“You don’t know who you are”

The search for identity is one which is relatable for many people but especially to those of a mixed heritage – if some in your family support Man U and others Man City, who do you support; if one parent is Christian and the other a Jew, where does the ball drop; or as in the case of Neil D’Souza’s play for the Watford Palace Theatre Coming Up, if you’re a British-born Indian what loyalties do you have to the homeland of your parents. 

D’Souza’s Alan is a businessman whose call centres are actually based in Mumbai but despite frequent trips there, he hasn’t been visiting the family members who live there due to an estrangement with his father. After his death, Alan finally makes it to see his elderly aunt and cousin – in a marvellously awkward meeting – who give him a memoir his father wrote which allows him to revisit and confront a past with which he is remarkably at odds. Continue reading “Review: Coming Up, Watford Palace Theatre”

Review: How To Hold Your Breath, Royal Court

“I thought when it came to it, I would be good at it”

Despite the fact that I really wasn’t a fan of How To Hold Your Breath, I can’t help but be impressed by the way that Vicky Featherstone really has shaken up the Royal Court since taking over as Artistic Director last year. The diversity in programming may mean that there’s no such thing as a safe bet there any more (something to play havoc with those who carefully book everything months in advance) but there’s something thrilling about that unpredictability, and also the variety that it thus lends to people’s theatregoing.

Turning into more of a lucky dip does mean that you’re not always going to pick a winner and such was the case for me with ZInnie Harris’ new work. A densely written and constructed play, it imagines a Europe swallowed whole by a new financial crisis and leaving the remnants of society to fend for themselves, turned into refugees fighting to cross the border into Istanbul or gain passage on rickety ships bound for Alexandria. With a seductive demon on one shoulder and her pregnant sister on the other, Maxine Peake’s Dana finds herself forced into that such a journey. Continue reading “Review: How To Hold Your Breath, Royal Court”

Short Film Review #44


WONDER from johnnydaukes on Vimeo.
A real work of art this. Johnny Daukes’ Wonder has much of the multi-stranded, deeply emotional feel of one of my favourite films Lantana and is just beautifully made. Set in London with the odd excursion to the picturesque Dorset coast, a set of disparate lives are shown to us – a couple about to separate, another one tired of their long relationship, a family grieving, a jealous lover wanting to trust his boyfriend. Daukes spares us too much dialogue and focuses instead on gorgeous shots and an evocative, self-penned score, making this a deserved success.

Continue reading “Short Film Review #44”

Review: Khandan (Family), Royal Court

“Where are they? I can’t be dealing with this Indian timing”

The second Birmingham Rep show to make its bow in London this month (Rachel De-lahay’s Circles being the first), Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s Khandan (Family) transferred for a short run at the Royal Court upstairs. Bhatti explores the dynamics of a first-generation Sikh family and their various complex ties to the notion of ‘home’, whether the Punjab to which matriarch Jeeto longs to return after emigrating to Birmingham in 1969 or the England in which her children were born.

Roxana Silbert’s production has much to appreciate in it but not really enough to engage and truly enjoy. The play skates over the domestic travails of all concerned but without ever really digging deep into the characters, they remain little more than ciphers. Rez Kempton’s ambitious Pal clearly loves his wife Liz yet her pain at their childlessness, something which Lauren Crace evokes beautifully, is something he brutally ignores. Oddities like these are scattered throughout, driving the plot at the expense of character credibility. Continue reading “Review: Khandan (Family), Royal Court”

Review: Drawing the Line, Hampstead Theatre via livestreaming

“When blood is spilt, disputes between people, nations, religions become all but impossible to solve”

A complete Brucie bonus to start off the year was the unexpected announcement that Howard Brenton’s new play Drawing the Line – a sell-out success at the Hampstead – would have its final performance live-streamed on t’internet. I hadn’t booked for the show as something had to give over Christmas and New Year and so the chance to catch up with it for free, albeit on the screen of my laptop, was one I was glad to take.

The play is set in the final days of the empire, as the British are beating a hasty retreat from the subcontinent but are determined to partition the land, and its diverse people, into India and Pakistan. The job of, quite literally, drawing the line falls to archetypal Englishman and judge Cyril Radcliffe who is shipped off to somewhere he has never been before, to accomplish what turns out to be a fiendishly complex assignment.  Continue reading “Review: Drawing the Line, Hampstead Theatre via livestreaming”

DVD Review: Wild Target

“I’m Victor Maynard, I’m 54 years old and I work as a professional killer”

Wild Target was a 2010 Brit-flick, adapted by Lucinda Coxon from the French film Cible Émouvante and directed by Jonathan Lynn, that made little real impact despite a rather fabulous cast. Bill Nighy plays Victor Maynard, a middle-aged man who has followed in the footsteps of his father as an assassin, but has no personal or social life to speak of, just regular visits to his mother, Eileen Atkins in fierce form. But when a job goes wrong, he finds himself trying to defend the very person he’s meant to kill, Emily Blunt’s con-artist Rose with the help of a young would-be apprentice in the shape of Rupert Grint’s Tony. 

It’s mainly frothy silliness. Amusing in parts as the threesome try to avoid being killed by the hapless assassins dispatched to finish off the original contract and round up the loose ends, including Martin Freeman with some lovely dental work…, the bond that grows between them is strongest when it is most ambiguous. There’s hints that the hitherto asexual Maynard may be a closet case, though meeting George Rainsford as a waiter in a gay café (that I would so frequent) sadly leads to nothing; Rose and Tony both come unencumbered by any attachments and so it seems it is anyone’s game. Continue reading “DVD Review: Wild Target”